Photo by Jamie Sabau
The Stars finally broke their jinx on back-to-back games against Columbus tonight, but it wasn’t easy. Here’s how it went down at Nationwide Arena in Ohio.
The first period was a very free flowing affair, with few stoppages in play and only one penalty called. The Stars outshot the Blue Jackets 14-5, and were rewarded when Cody Eakin’s centering pass glanced in off Brenden Morrow’s skate. The period ended 1-0 Stars.
Photo by Derek Leung
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan summed it up best when asked what the Stars did well last night: “We took 30 shots”.
They took 30 shots and even netted 4 of them; sounds decent, right? Until you watch the game. The Stars fell behind early in the first period when some nifty passing put the Flames up 1-0. After that, it took two power plays for Calgary to net two more goals and put the Stars in a three goal hole before we were halfway through the first period. Both teams were very good on power plays with the Stars converting on two of three and the Flames perfect on the night. The one power play that the Stars did not capitalize on was a two man advantage late in the second period that would have put them within two goals. At that point, it was fairly insignificant that they missed out; however, they did add a power play goal shortly after that in the early stages of the third period.
The same bug-a-boos struck the Stars again tonight, on the second night of a back-to-back. Too many penalties, too little offense, a disjointed transition game and a few defensive breakdowns resulted in a putrid 2-0 loss to the Coyotes.
Three Stars took penalties in the offensive zone in the first period, but the Stars were able to lean on their strongest attribute, their penalty-killing, to get them through the period unscathed. The period was not without defensive breakdowns though. On one occasion, all five Stars gravitated to the boards at once, leaving a wide open lane in the slot for a charging Coyote. Backup goaltender Richard Bachman stoned the ensuing shot, and was able to thwart all of Phoenix’s attacks until the 2nd period.
The Stars were shutout on the second night of a back-to-back by the Minnesota Wild, 0-1. Back-to-backs were the Stars’ weakness last season, and at first blush it seems that it could be a problem again this season. The Stars looked fatigued at times, mentally absent at others, and were totally stymied by Minnesota’s defense.
Only the Jagr-Roy-Eriksson line seemed to generate any offense, and even then it didn’t amount to much. Minnesota was content to clog the lanes and block shot after shot (26 blocked in total). Wild goaltender Josh Harding was named the 1st Star of the Game, but honestly didn’t have much to do until the end of the game when the Stars made a short-handed bid to tie the game.
Harding wasn’t even the best goalie in the game – neutral observers would award that title to the Stars’ rookie netminder Cristoper Nilstorp. The lanky Swede looked very composed yet active, using every bit of his 6’3″, 191 lb body to cut off angles to the net. The lone goal of the night came off of a Zach Parise blast that Nilstorp likely couldn’t see through the 3 bodies ahead of him. A few more performances like tonight, and Richard Bachman might have a hard time winning back the backup job – or the Stars might have a nice piece to trade at the deadline.
It would only seem natural for Stars fans to be frustrated after another back-to-back loss. “Here we go again,” they might be saying. I’d preach a little more patience in this instance though. This was the first back-to-back game after one week of training camp, and a team with many new faces that are still trying to learn how to play together. At the very least, the Stars kept the game close, which is an improvement over last year’s squad in the second game of back-to-backs. Let’s reserve our judgment just a bit, and enjoy the fact that hockey is back.